63. Happiness is a Verb

Good morning and welcome to your sixty-third meditation. Imagine life as a medieval king or queen. You are surrounded by servants. If you ever want a certain kind of food, you send someone to fetch it for you. If you want information you send someone to fetch it for you. If you want entertainment you send for it. You may not get what you demand instantly, but you’ll get it, so long as your servants can figure out a way to provide it. Now compare that life to that of the average person living today. We don’t even have to be super-wealthy, let alone, royalty, to enjoy these privileges. We can order food to our doorstep, we can learn about whatever we want on the internet, we can entertain ourselves with movies, TV shows, sports, music, podcasts, etc. on demand. The difference between us and medieval royalty is that we can get this stuff pretty much instantly, we have access to a far wider variety of it, and we have plumbing and electricity. Plus, we generally don’t have to worry about anyone trying to overthrow our kingdom. You know the expression “live like a king”? Weighing the realities of the two situations, most of us would likely prefer to live like a middle class person today.And yet, we still struggle to be satisfied. We still always struggle to be happy. Now this could be a podcast about how we all need to stop whining and appreciate everything we have. And maybe it is, a little bit. It is at least worth considering how the entire history of humankind has worked and suffered to minimize our suffering in this current moment. That fact probably deserves some acknowledgement and gratitude. Added to that, the fact that we just happened to have evolved on the most perfect paradise of a planet, which provides us with everything we need. Also worth noting. But what this meditation is really about is the fact that if all those ways of living like royalty to which we have such easy access still don’t make us happy, then perhaps we should stop looking to them to provide us with happiness. Perhaps happiness is not something that can be provided. No matter how well our algorithms know us, they can’t possibly give us happiness because happiness cannot be given. Perhaps happiness is a verb, not a noun. An action, not an object. Viktor Frankl says, “Happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue”, i.e., it cannot be chased and captured, rather it happens. So, in order to be happy, maybe we should focus more on doing than obtaining. Maybe we should take the time to make more meals instead of having them made for us like a king would. Maybe we should relish eating those meals instead of consuming them in a distracted state (see last week’s podcast). Maybe we should focus more on enjoying the process of learning than the information or skills that we may or may not obtain from that process. And maybe we should think more about creating our own entertainment. Write our own stories, act our own plays, play and sing our own music, invent our own games. Of course, TV and movies and ordering in are all great and can definitely enrich our lives. And the people make those things are professionals for a reason. But perhaps, in order to be happy, we need to take matters a little more into our own hands, even if those hands are only capable of amateur work. Keep it up. You’re doing great. Have a wonderful day.

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